By: Patrick Topping (@ptopp_ing) –
Dublin-based alt-rock group My Bloody Valentine, who released MBV this year, their first album since 1991’s Loveless, performed at the Kool Haus in Toronto last night.
My Bloody Valentine is the vision of alchemist-in-guitarist Kevin Shields, as he welded streams of guitar distortion, feedback, and delay into ornate tremolo-ed strands of iridescent melodies, bolstered with jagged edges. Exacting a precise balance between delicacy and near-tumult is the defining quality of My Bloody Valentine, and is also the curse of the ingenious persona behind their body of work.
The mostly male audience demonstrated the timelessness of the near-legacy act, with early-to-mid 20-year-olds lining the stage rails front-and-centre, while mid-30-year-olds hovered around the soundboard. The earnest devotion towards the heart-wrenchingly human, ’90s rock group spans a broad spectrum, from technical awe for Shields’ craft (one fan checking a decibel-measuring app throughout the show), to the utterly emotionally loyal.
The setlist was a honed concoction that swept their catalogue, which began with three songs from 1991’s Loveless: the short-circuiting droner track “Sometimes”, the searing whirled “I Only Said”, and a hastened “When You Sleep” replete with neon, geometric visuals projected onto the screen behind the stacks of amplifiers. Injecting a reprieve in the sonorous density , “New You” from MBV showed a jaunty, ‘90s-era delay-guitar riff, adorned by guitarist/vocalist Bilinda Butcher’s wispy, ethereal vocals in a striding doo-wop melody. In a similar vein, the serrated, saccharine “Honey Power” offTremolo sandwiched the 120-decibel rendition of the shattering “You Never Should”. The audience responded enthusiastically to the Loveless pairing of the steeped, swaying of “Come Alone” and the electrifying jolt of album opener “Only Shallow”. Peppering the set were the punchy, punk track “Nothing Much To Lose” and the shimmered gazey “To Here Knows When”, which was paired with the tumbling rhythms, demented carousel melodies, and grappled guitar riffs on MBV’s “Wonder 2”.
At the outset of the show, Shields’ discontented glares toward the stage techs indicated technical difficulties with his guitars and on-stage sound. He ultimately erupted, heaving his guitar head to the ground after two mis-starts on the jangly “Thorn”. Similar problems led to a mis-start of the surging, slow-motion MBV track “Who Sees You”, prompting an audience member to plead that they finish the song. Shields effusively responded that his very intent and desire is to deliver perfect renditions, and he assuredly injected a searing tremolo guitar solo to propel the undulating song to a pointed conclusion.
Nearing the end, the band kicked into the chirpy Loveless closer “Soon”, the shuffled rhythms bringing the crowd to a rolling sway, before the raucous “Feed Me With Your Kiss”. Prefacing the end of the show, Shields apologized to the audience for the “rubbish gig”, shrugging out of disappointment. The long-held tradition of My Bloody Valentine performances is to close with “You Made Me Realise”, which eroded into what has been affectionately called the “Holocaust section”, a cacophonous sonic embattlement of trembling frequencies at crushing decibel levels. It would have been reasonable to expect a protracted foray given the repressed frustrations of the show, but the whirlwind ended abruptly after around eight minutes, punctuated with the closing riff. The audience reeled in from the whiplash, and trickled out into the night.